The Whimsical Illustrations of Aelva Mackintosh


I don’t remember when I first met Aelva Mackintosh. I know I was living in Olympia, WA attending The Evergeen State College. Living either in the Deer Run Apartments, a shabby little complex not far from campus. Nothing in town was far from campus. At the time, I was a pissed-off confused kid who wanted more than anything to write for a living and had no idea how to make that happen.

For some time, Aelva dated a dear friend of mine, and once while some classmates and I were producing our first poetry reading at some dim dive-bar/news stand downtown, I asked her if she could illustrate a flier for our show. I wanted a drawing of Jesse Owens kicking Hitler in the ass. I thought she’d balk at the idea, but instead she just drew it and turned it over. At a time when my friends and I were trying to find our own voices and find ways to make ourselves valuable to an audience, Aelva was already making art that was only hers. I can look at her linework from anywhere in the past twenty years and know immediately who drew it.

In 2011, I took my first trip back to Seattle and Olympia since leaving Evergreen. I met Aelva for brunch at Darby’s, and she was feeling nervous and awkward. To comfort herself, she sketched as we chatted, creating a java monster whose snout poured coffee into the mug resting on its kitchen table. A print of that sketch hangs in my own kitchen. Since then, Aelva has drawn the cover ant spot illustrations for my short story collection, a commissioned Christmas card, and the cover illustration for WisCon’s souvenir book. (Since the convention was canceled this year in favor of an online con, Aelva’s illustration will appear on next year’s souvenir book.)

The thing that strikes me most about Aelva’s art is that she and I on the surface have very different personalities and aesthetics, but when I see her art–the colors, the shading–I feel a sense of recognition, almost as if we have both explored the same imagined geography.

I’m thrilled every time I see new work from her, and I’m pleased to share these pieces with a wider audience.

Chicken Trio:
This was a commissioned illustration of a friend’s chickens. I do love birds so much, how could I possibly have refused! Tried to match not only the look of the three birds but also the personalities in a fun cartoony way here.


Moonlit Night Owl: Nothing was quite as thrilling to me, when I was young, as staying up past my bedtime and strolling thru the night with the vivid glow of the celestial heavens hanging bright above me.

Antlered Owl: A fantastical idea I had for a creature hailing from the deep forests of elven lands. Magical owls that live in flowered forests… serving much the role of fabled dryads and nymphs in watching over their sylvan domain.


Blissful Bird Musics: Music is a thing I hold dear. It helps flit me away from mundane troubles and anxieties, yet sometimes, with a stereo muted and a window open, the natural singing of the forest birds themselves can be as blissful as any good album.


Droxni the Spore Druid: I’ve long loved Dungeons and Dragons, and earlier this year I was able to play a game with some local folks at my college. Unfortunately the character I drew this sketch for was intended to be played in a campaign that never wound up happening, but I still enjoy her design.

Aelva Mackintosh is fond of stories of witchery and fantastical places. In her early years she would especially delight in navigating the curling paths of text adventure games and geeking out on Dungeons and Dragons tomes. All grown up now, she resides in a forested corner of the Pacific Northwest with her smol feathered familiar, Kalliopy.